According to a press release dated June 27, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) together with 99 international regulatory and law enforcement agencies took action against more than 9,500 websites that were illegally selling “potentially dangerous, unapproved prescription medicines to consumers.” The FDA issued regulatory warnings and seized and shut down 1,677 illegal pharmacy websites. Many of the sites appeared to be operating as part of an organized criminal network. They also seized $41,104,386 worth of illegal medicines worldwide by intercepting and screening drugs in international mail facilities.
The operation, Pangea VI, took place during the week of June 18 to June 25, 2013 and was part of the 6th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA) to combat the online sale and distribution of counterfeit and illegal medical products. It is the largest Internet-based action of its kind. Many of the websites claimed to be “Canadian Pharmacies,” showed fake licenses, and advertised their products as “brand name” and “FDA approved” to persuade U.S. consumers to buy. The sites also used names such as www.walgreens-store.com and www.c-v-s-pharmacy.com, similar to familiar names of established U.S. pharmacies.
In a CNN interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said, “Purchasing from these sites can put consumers at risk.” She said that some of the products intercepted have none of the active ingredient that people need for treatment of their illness, or they can have too much or too little. They are sometimes produced in back alleys under unsanitary conditions and can have toxic ingredients.
The most common scams advertised the popular drugs Avandaryl (used to treat type 2 diabetes), generic Celebrex (an anti-inflammatory product), Levitra and Viagra (used to treat ED), and Clozapine (used to treat severe schizophrenia.
In addition to health risks, the illegal pharmacies pose other risks to consumers such as credit care fraud, identity theft, or computer malware
The FDA operates a website BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy to help consumers identify illegal pharmacies.
For more information you can trust on the dangers of online pharmacies, see